tv Sino News Magazine PBS January 23, 2011 8:30pm-9:00pm PST
and it was here that he discovered what real americans were. as a rancher, he played all the roles of the cowboy on roundups. he would ride the circuit horses, he would do everything. he would be in the saddle 14, 18 hours a day. so it was partially self-proof, a first real chance of him to measure himself against people he really respected, and their abilities, and stand up to it. he also developed his view of america on a much larger scale than just the eastern seaboard. (narrator) not only did he learn about people while working with the cowboys of the west, but he also learned to love the robust life of the outdoors. ♪ ♪ (man, as roosevelt) "cowboys are known to each other only by their first name, with a prefix-- the title of the brand for which they are working.
thus i once remember overhearing a casual remark to the effect that 'bar-y harry had married the 7 open a girl,' the latter being the daughter of a neighboring rancher. they are as hardy and self-reliant as any men who ever breathed, with bronze-set faces and keen eyes that look all the world straight in the face without flinching. (narrator) roosevelt rode from dawn to dusk on the roundups. he might've been a dude with glasses, but he had grit and soon proved he could keep up with the best of hands. he never malingered, never shirked a task no matter how dirty, difficult, or tiring. he was often the last to go to bed and the first to rise, and he never complained about injuries, aches or pains. (man, as roosevelt) on my first roundup, i had a string of 9 horses; 4 of the broncos only broken to the extent of having each been saddled once or twice.
one of them, it was an impossibility to bridle or saddle single-handed. it was very difficult to get on him, and he was exceedingly nervous if a man moved his hands or feet. but he had no bad tricks. the second soon became perfectly quiet, the third turned out to be one of the worst buckers on the ranch. once, when he bucked me off, i managed to fall on a stone and broke a rib. the fourth had a still worse habit, for he would balk and then throw himself over backward. once, when i was not quick enough, he caught me and broke something in the point of my shoulder so that it was some weeks before i could raise the arm freely." (gerald tweton) his fascination with the cowboy culture was that it was rough and ready. these were the day, in the victorian period, where manhood was very much emphasized. he had great respect for the cowboy because the cowboy worked in the rain, worked in the dirt, worked under the worst conditions,
but always triumphed, always got the job done. (narrator) never mind the hail, rain, heat, and cold, he was now a cowboy, one of the men he thought honorable and he could relate to. (douglas brinkley) once roosevelt showed his grit and the merit of his integrity, whether he was a good shot or not wasn't what impressed them about roosevelt. he had a great fiber to him, that this was a good guy that you'd come back and say this is a guy who's smart, he's funny, he's decent, he's honest, he has integrity, and people started admiring those qualities about him. (narrator) if he wasn't working at a roundup, at the elkhorn reading or writing a book, he often sat in his rocking chair gazing over the little missouri and the rugged bluffs that blended into the wide horizons. he was still grieving, but the beautiful badlands were helping to recover his spirit
and bring meaning back to his life. (man, as roosevelt) "these long, swift rides in the glorious spring mornings are not soon to be forgotten. the fresh, sweet air with a touch of sharpness this early in the day, and the rapid motion of the fiery little horse combine to make a man's blood thrill and leap with buoyant lightheartedness and eager exultant pleasure in the boldness and freedom of the life he is leading. as we climbed the steep sides of the first range of buttes, wisps of wavering mist still cling in the hollows of the valley. when we come out on the top of the first great plateau, the sun flames up over its edge, and in the level red beams, a galloping horsemen throw fantastic shadows. black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough; at any rate, not when he first feels the horse move under him. well, it really started defining the character of theodore roosevelt. the badlands was the discovery of america.
up until that time, he had made family trips to egypt. he had traveled europe, he certainly had spent time on the eastern seaboard, lived in new york, went to school in harvard, went hunting in maine. but seeing the badlands and capturing what some people call the closing of the frontier or the end of a certain era out here, it gave him a taste of what it was like at the battle of little bighorn, or what it would have been like, while he was out here, to have sitting bull still alive at a reservation not far away, and to have buffalo herds, the last indigenous ones still roaming freely. he improved as a horse rider. he became a better shot out here. but more importantly, he started building his physical stamina up and his strength. so he used to say, roosevelt, that without north dakota, i wouldn't have been president. what he really was saying was without those experiences in self-reliance, he wouldn't have had the fortitude to go forward
and put together the rough riders, which was made up of great plains cowboys and harvard dandies, in some ways, or intellectuals. and that rough riders then became what his famous calling card was-- colonel roosevelt. ♪ ♪ (narrator) while roosevelt was coming a cowboy, the other blue blood in medora was the charismatic marquis de mores, who was busy building his cattle empire. he was a man to be reckoned with; quick-tempered, strong-willed, and always well-armed. the marquis and roosevelt were acquainted. both were considered gentlemen. they had business dealings, but roosevelt at one point refused to sell cattle to de mores because he felt an agreement had not been honored. he became convinced the frenchman was not always honest in his business dealings and decided never to do business with him again. these 2 men were aristocrats, but one was a profoundly american aristocrat,
and the other one more of the european stamp. roosevelt grew up with great privilege, but he came to the west to learn how to be a cowboy. he wanted desperately to fit in, and no part of him wanted to remind others of his social privilege-- just the opposite. the marquis had some pretensions to the french throne, and he took himself very seriously indeed, and patronized and belittled all the people around him. it was inevitable that these 2 styles would be clear to everyone in the badlands, and what strikes any historian is that eventually, the cowboys of dakota territory learned to respect and even love theodore roosevelt. but nobody really loved the marquis. in fact, most people openly despised him, and the only thing that got him anywhere he wanted to go in dakota was the immense pool of money on which his investments lay.
(narrator) both were known as men who would not back down from a confrontation, and de mores was always ready to defend his honor in a duel if necessary. they had dined together, exchanged books and favors in both medora and new york city, but they were circumspect of one another, and the relationship was cool. prior to roosevelt's arrival in the badlands, de mores upset area residents by fencing open range he claimed as his own. this was considered very bad manners by locals. tensions ran high among locals who felt they were being treated as serfs and servants rather than the independent ranchers and cowboys they were. the animosity and the tensions grew until gunfire erupted between the marquis and his men and local cowboy riley luffsey and his friends below the bluffs just west of medora.
(loud gunshots) lead flew... and when the smoke cleared, luffsey lay dead. what had been a war of words now became a serious legal battle with de mores being accused of murder. charges against the marquis were filed and dropped twice, but he was indicted again and held in jail to await trial. the marquis suspected roosevelt was a key figure among those trying to have him brought to trial. there was tension, hard feelings, and as that conflict grew, de mores sent a note to roosevelt that many considered an invitation to a duel. (man, as de mores) "my principle is to take the bull by the horns. joe ferris is very active against me and has been instrumental in getting me indicted by furnishing money to witnesses and hunting them up. is this done by your orders?
i thought you my friend. if you are my enemy, i want to know it. i'm always on hand, as you know, and between gentlemen it is easy to settle matters of that sort directly. yours very truly, de mores." the letter that the marquis de mores wrote to theodore roosevelt, which was apparently a challenge over some issue about land, certainly is true. and i suspect it all is true. tr answered this, his approach to it was to write back, and that letter's extant too, and say that, you know, he was ready anytime. now, was there no question if tr had gotten in a duel with the marquis de mores, it was very unlikely that tr could've survived if de mores had actually tried to kill him. de mores was a much better shot, tr couldn't see very well. there is the story that he said well, let's do it at close range with rifles and making it as difficult for de mores as possible. (narrator) roosevelt viewed the letter
as questioning his integrity and a threat. in case there was a duel, he asked his ranch foreman to act as his second, and because of his bad eyesight and poor marksmanship, he picked rifles at 12 paces as the weapon of choice. if they were going to duel, both would likely die. having made his decision, roosevelt quickly replied to de mores' note. (man, as roosevelt) most emphatically, i am not your enemy. if i were, you would know it, for i would be an open one and would have not asked you to my house nor gone to yours. as your final words however seem to imply in threat, it is due to myself to say at the statement is not made through any fear or possible consequences to me. i too, as you know, am always on hand and have a ready to hold myself accountable in any way for anything i have said or done. yours very truly, theodore roosevelt." (narrator) luckily for history, de mores responded
with a conciliatory note that roosevelt interpreted as an apology. the marquis was a ruthless man, who had killed others in duels before. he practiced his dueling arts. he would've beaten roosevelt in any fair fight. and he was alone in the world by this time. he was in jail when he wrote this letter. he needed friends, and in a european way, he thought that the other aristocrat of the badlands would be his ally. it really upset him. it probably even hurt his feelings that roosevelt wasn't supporting him in any meaningful way. roosevelt would've been dead like that in a duel. i think that that really shows that he wasn't afraid of anything, but sometimes sort of foolishly not afraid. (narrator) roosevelt spent much of the winter of '85 and '86 in new york.
with snow melting in the badlands he boarded a train, and in the spring of '86 returned to his beloved elkhorn ranch. upon arrival, he discovered thieves had stolen his small boat. this was no small matter to theodore roosevelt. he was incensed; blood was up, the chase was on. ordering his ranch hands to build another boat, roosevelt and the makeshift posse quickly began the chase. the thieves had a 6-day head start, but within 3 days, roosevelt and his men caught up with the hapless trio of lawbreakers. wiley, red headed mike finnigan, a medora ne'er-do-well, was the leader of the band of thieves. finnigan and friends were surprised by roosevelt and his rifle brandishing men. (man, as roosevelt) finnigan hesitated for a second, his eyes fairly wolfish. then, as i walked up within a few paces, covering the center of his chest so as to avoid overshooting and repeating the command,
he saw that he had no show, and with an oath, let his rifle drop and held his hands up beside his head. (clay jenkinson) he wanted his boat back, and remember that they stole the boat just before roosevelt was going on a mountain lion hunt, and he needed that boat for the hunt. get in the way of roosevelt's big-game hunting, and you've caused trouble. he thought it was a matter of principle that you can't allow lawlessness out on the frontier because it will breed more lawlessness and eventually anarchy. so he decided that he had to stake a claim for civilization by hunting down these thieves and taking them to justice. he had to build a boat. he had to pursue them through a blizzard, there were ice floes in the river. the banks were covered with mud, his food supply ran out. but in some sense, he regarded as a lark. and when he gets to the place where the thieves are resting, it's a scene out of a dime novel, and roosevelt is constantly casting himself in life
as a kind of hero from his boyhood reading. his account of this is very heroic and dramatic. we have several other accounts of the same incident, which are a little more mundane. but he was able to disarm the desperados at gunpoint. there's something in roosevelt's character that's really interesting and hard to fathom, but he courted danger all of his life. he liked brushes with death, and this was one of them. roosevelt was so proud of the incident, he had the event reenacted for this photo. in another photo, roosevelt's trusted ranch hands sewell and dow posed with the recovered boat. although he had the miscreance in hand, the road to justice was long. low on food and in bitter cold, his ranch hands were sent home. a grueling journey to justice with prisoners began; first on the still partially frozen little missouri river,
then over land on a gumbo trail from killdeer to dickinson. to stay awake and guard his prisoners, roosevelt reads the recently published english translation of leo tolstoy's masterpiece "anna karenina." when finished with the classic, he asked finnigan if he has a book, and surprisingly he does. finnigan's book is a dime novel about jesse james. nevertheless, roosevelt borrows the book, and for 3 harrowing and exhausting days, either walks or reads as he heads his captives to dickinson and justice. turning his prisoners over to the sheriff, the wealthy new yorker proudly accepts $50 for his law enforcement efforts, and then looks for a doctor to treat his badly bruised feet. dr. victor stickney later wrote: (man, as dr. stickney) "he was all teeth and eyes, but even so, he seemed a man unusually wide awake. you could see he was thrilled by the adventures he'd been through. he did not seem to think
he'd done anything particularly commendable. but he was, in his own phrase, 'pleased as punch,' at the idea of having participated in a real adventure." (snare drum & piano play) ♪ ♪ (narrator) on the 4th of july, 1886, stickney invited roosevelt to be the speaker at dickinson's independence day celebration. the day began then, as now, with a parade. it was a big parade. but a local booster is quoted as saying the trouble with the parade was that everyone in town was so enthusiastic, they insisted on joining the procession, and there was no one to watch except 2 men who were too drunk to notice anything. roosevelt, in what is regarded as his first great public address, tells the assembled audience; (man, as roosevelt) "like all americans, i like big things; big prairies, big forests, and mountains, big wheat fields, railroads, and herds of cattle too,
big factories, steamboats, and everything else. but what we must keep steadily in mind is that no people were ever yet benefited by riches if their prosperity corrupted their virtue!" (narrator) following the 4th of july dickinson speech, roosevelt and friend and newspaper publisher a.t. packard traveled together back to medora. it's once been said that you have no idea how far you can go in american life if you look good on the back of a horse. roosevelt learned how to look good on the back of the horse. he learned how to be a hunter's hunter. he learned how to give 4th of july speeches on mainstreet towns like dickinson that were there to unite and inspire people. it was all part of the education of this young man that was just filled with ambition. i think it's true that that dickinson speech, if you put it to the collected speeches of theodore roosevelt,
it'd be probably the first speech of the volume. it's the beginning of what we're going to see as this political dynamo and the emerging voice that we get to know as theodore roosevelt. (clay jenkinson) they came from medora to dickinson on a freight train, but they returned later that day on a passenger train, and as they went back to medora, roosevelt, proud of his speech, began to expatiate on his vision of the united states and the square deal, good government, civil service reform, america's place in the world, the need for a large navy, the need for a stronger central government. packard was so impressed by the deep civic mindedness of roosevelt and his mastery of the public life of the american constitution, that he said to him, you know, i think if you really believe all of that that some day you might be the president of the united states. thus, a.t. packard became the first person ever to predict
that roosevelt would be the president, when roosevelt heard this, he sat up, he thought about this for a moment, and he looked packard, and he said, "i don't know if what you say is true, but if i do become the president of the united states, i shall do my best to be a very good one!" it's a great moment for roosevelt. the speech in dickinson on the 4th of july, 1886, was the first great national speech that he ever delivered. it set the stage for all of the great orations that were to come. (narrator) roosevelt's dakota adventure was coming to an end. the winter of 1886, '87 was one of the harshest in the history of north dakota. there were too many cattle on the range, and with little feed, howling, cold north winds, blinding snow and bitter cold, the cattle of the badlands and the prairies
died by the thousands. roosevelt was caught up in the the catastrophe. when he heard of the mounting losses, he rushed by train to the badlands to assess the damage. to a friend, he wrote: (man, as roosevelt) the losses are crippling. for the first time, i have been utterly unable to enjoy a visit to any ranch. i shall be glad to get home. (narrator) most of his cattle were dead. the great adventure was over. he had proven himself as a man among men, and now it was time to move on. he had lost half his fortune ranching in north dakota, and he sold the few cattle that remained from his herd. like a moth to a flame, roosevelt returned again in 1888 and '89 to hunt. in 1890, he brought his second wife edith, sister bamie, and friends to visit his elkhorn ranch.
he returned 5 more times before he led his famed rough riders up san juan hill in cuba. it was a charge that s pure roosevelt. leading his rough riders and firing a pistol recovered from the sunken battleship maine, old four eyes became a national hero. he later called it, "my crowded hour, the great day of my life." (clay jenkinson) most of what was important about the spanish american war occurred not in cuba, but in the philippines. but because of roosevelt's charisma, because of a kind of mythic quality of his life, and particularly because of the book that he wrote about it, he shot up-- he said, "i rose like a rocket." in a sense, he took over the entire narrative. and when we think of the spanish american war, we chiefly think of colonel theodore roosevelt assaulting san juan hill. the qualities that he brought to that-- stamina, a willingness to take risks under impossible circumstances, a kind of cowboy mentality about good and evil,
those qualities were learned on his 2 ranches in dakota territory. (narrator) theodore roosevelt was a national hero. he was quickly elected governor of new york, then selected by national republicans as the running mate for william mckinley in 1900. mckinley and roosevelt easily won election. but in 1901, tragedy struck when mckinley was felled by an assassin's bullet. theodore roosevelt, at age 42, became the youngest president in u.s. history. he promoted conservation efforts, the building of the panama canal, and was a progressive who championed a square deal for everyone. roosevelt returned to medora in 1903, stopping his train there while on a visit to yellowstone and yosemite national parks. the visit was brief, but friends from his ranching days turned out
at the medora town hall for a look at a real president. this photo was taken to commemorate the historic event. those who might've poked fun at old four eyes just a few years earlier were now awed by the presence of the president of the united states of america. roosevelt was delighted, but also visibly moved by the presence of the men and the women who had shared his life on the frontier. he was one of them, and they would never forget one another. (man, as roosevelt) "i spent the happiest and most profitable years of my life here. if it had not been for what i learned in north dakota, i would never in the world have been president of the united states. (narrator) theodore roosevelt died at his home in oyster bay, new york, at the age of 60 on january the 6th, 1919. the buffalo he shot in the badlands still hangs in the north room